Q.  What is the Centre for the Moving Image? 

A. The Centre for the Moving Image (CMI) is Scotland’s leading film organisation and a is registered Scottish charity with a vision to transform people’s lives through film. CMI incorporates Edinburgh International Film Festival, Filmhouse, Filmhouse Café Bar and the Belmont Filmhouse in Aberdeen.  

Filmhouse has been at the centre of Edinburgh’s cultural landscape for more than 40 years. As well as a year-round programme of inspiring films, creative learning, special events and partnership working, Filmhouse is home to the Edinburgh International Film Festival (EIFF), one of the world’s leading film festivals, and plays a key role in promoting a vibrant and successful film and moving image industry and culture across Scotland.   

Q.  Why do you need a new bigger building?  

A.  Simply, we’re bursting at the seams, and we can’t deliver everything we would to in the way we would want to in the current building.

Our vision is to provide unrivalled spaces and facilities for everyone to enjoy, while celebrating cinema and filmmaking in all its diversity. The new building will increase the quality and quantity of spaces needed by Filmhouse and EIFF, housing all of our activity under one roof, and creating a fully accessible creative hub that will benefit Filmhouse and all its users, Edinburgh residents, and the film and cultural sector more broadly. The new building will allow us to operate a more successful and efficient business model in the future, helping to secure Filmhouse’s future for generations to come.  

The new building will include: 

  • Six new cinemas of varying sizes to suit a wide range of programming needs, doubling our audience capacity from 449 seats to 900 seats, which can screen film in digital, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm formats.  

  • A dedicated education space to support an expansion of our year round education, learning and outreach programmes.  

  • A new Festival Centre: a flexible auditorium providing the perfect venue for lectures and special events less suited to cinema spaces.  

  • Filmhouse’s popular Café Bar with additional breakout and outdoor seating options.   

  • A new Creative Industries hub, providing much needed temporary and long term workspace for individuals and organisations in the film sector, helping to establish Filmhouse as a vibrant and productive creative hub.  

  • Fully accessible offices and workspaces with the capacity to accommodate all of the Filmhouse and EIFF teams.  

  • A new top-floor restaurant and rooftop event space with views of Edinburgh Castle.    

Our audience is at the very heart of what we do and in designing this new building we have considered everything we know you value: our location, our atmosphere, our diversity of programme, and the education and learning activities we deliver, as well as continuing to provide great locally sourced food and drink in our Café Bar and providing a safe and comfortable space for people to gather.  

Q.  Why not develop the existing Filmhouse? 

A.  The current building, home to Filmhouse and EIFF since 1978, is a former church which is a B Listed building, meaning it is of special architectural or historic interest, and has limited development options. The current building has always had its challenges: space is limited, it does not meet standards that we or our customers would expect, and much of the building is not accessible.  

Over the past 20 years, Filmhouse has looked at a number of options for upgrading or relocating the building. In 2018 we commissioned a feasibility study to comprehensively assess a redevelopment or rebuild on the current site. The result was that due to the challenges of the building, listed status of the front of the building, and proximity of neighbours, the end result would be highly compromised. For Filmhouse to make basic improvements to provide fit-for-purpose facilities, the upgrades would result in a significant reduction in cinema seats and Café Bar space, which means we would not be able to afford to keep the organisation running.  

For Filmhouse to survive long term and do what it does best, we need a major rethink. We’ve explored lots of options for the existing building and other sites, and we believe this proposal is the best solution.  

Q.  Will access be improved? 

A.  The entire venue will be fully accessible for customers, guests and staff.  

Q.  What will happen to the current building?  

A.  Filmhouse owns the building, but the plans for the new building are not contingent on the sale of the existing venue. We are exploring options of selling, keeping or renting out the building. Our preference is for it to continue to be a cultural/community space, and this will be at the forefront of our discussions with the city and potential new residents.  

Q.  What is the timescale? 

A.  This Pre-Application Consultation will run until 12 July 2020.  We hope to submit a Planning Application soon after, incorporating feedback from the Consultation phase, with a planning decision by Spring 2021.  

The next steps will be contingent on the planning decision and fundraising campaign. We anticipate running the fundraising campaign during 2021-2023, building work beginning Summer 2023 and lasting approximately two years, with the new Filmhouse opening around 2025.  

Q.  Who are the architects?   

A.  Filmhouse is working with Edinburgh-based Richard Murphy Architects.   

Visit here to see the architect drawings and  visualisations.  

These images give you a good idea of  our thinking on the  position and shape of the building, and the spaces  it would contain,  however the  design is still in development. While we  have established a set of design principles and  have confirmed the main spaces required in the building, the layout, interior and exterior design, and outdoor landscaping are still a work in progress and we will use comments from this consultation process to shape the final design.  

Q.  Will there still be a Café Bar?  

A.  Yes. The new Filmhouse will include a Café Bar with a slightly increased capacity to our current one. The new Café Bar will be positioned on the lower level of the building, keeping the intimate, cosy and safe atmosphere of the existing one, but will still have natural light due to  the open design of  the  central space in the building and light wells on the side of the building. 

Q.  Will it change what Filmhouse  does?  

A.  Our values and focus remain the same but we’ll be able to do more and do it better.  Since 1978, Filmhouse has been Scotland’s leading arthouse cinema, celebrating world cinema in all its brilliance and diversity.  Filmhouse delivers the best new release cinema, curated seasons and retrospectives, a variety of national/regional festivals, special events, and dedicated screenings for targeted audience groups. Our diverse programming is unique and unrivalled in Scotland.  

The new building will allow us to show even more great films, screen more experimental cinema, and offer more accessible screenings for audiences with different access needs. We’ll be able to offer more space to our programming partners and visiting festivals, hosting more screenings, and also talks, conferences, workshops and events alongside our film programmes.  

Q.  Why Festival Square? 

A.  It's important to us and our audiences that Filmhouse remains in a city-centre location that is easy to reach by public transport. Festival Square is a very underused site, which has been identified by the City of Edinburgh Council as suited for a cultural building. 

Our aim is to bring new life to Festival Square, creating an architecturally successful building with a minimised footprint, which retains as much open space as possible. We will work with landscape consultants OPEN to improve the space with landscaping incorporating seating, planting, lighting and public art, to create a more welcoming and interesting environment for Edinburgh’s residents to spend time in.  

We believe that the combination of one of Edinburgh’s most highly valued cultural venues together with one of its leading festivals, plus effective public realm landscaping design for the whole square, and a building design that aims to engage with the surrounding space, would make a strong case for helping Festival Square live up to its name. Nevertheless, the new building footprint has been designed to be as small as possible while accommodating the facilities required to make it fit for purpose - 50% of the new Filmhouse will be underground.  

Q.  How are your future plans being affected by COVID-19?

The impact of COVID is being felt by many organisations.  In many ways the inadequacies of the existing Filmhouse building have highlighted the need for a new building which addresses basic design issues, including proper access and exit routes, circulation routes, and spacious cinemas. 

We are therefore reviewing the plans for the new Filmhouse to make sure that these issues are addressed fully and our new home has the flexibility and space to ensure public safety and social distancing, if this is still required.  

We are extending our public consultation and will be running online consultation events and sharing videos from the project team to help people learn more about our plans, ask questions, and provide feedback from their homes.

As we’ve not been able to have in-person conversations, our team have been busy recording some videos from home to help explain more about the principles that are guiding this project: Plans and Principles

Q. How will you aim to ensure the new building is carbon neutral? 

We are committed to finding ways to make the new building operate as sustainably as possible. This will be achieved through ongoing considerations around the design of the building itself but also through the operation and management of the building and its activities once we’re up and running. We’re looking at:  

  • Passive design solutions – natural ventilation, good quality daylighting and by reducing energy demand through consideration of the shape, form and massing of the building.  

  • Generating energy – through use of photovoltaic cells on glazing and roof top areas, and air source heat pumps on the roof of the building. 

  • Energy sources - only using verifiable renewable energy source of electricity. 

  • Heating and ventilation systems - ensuring plant, heating and air conditioning etc. all running as energy efficiently as possible. 

  • Travel - Through greener ways of working wherever possible, including encouraging staff and public to use sustainable transport methods, including walking, cycling and public transport The building will have no car parking spaces.  

  • Reduce, Reuse and RecycleOur existing policy focuses on how we can minimise the amount of materials we use within the building, from office materials to how the café bar operates.  We already work closely with Changeworks and Resource Efficient Scotland in ensuring that we are reusing and recycling as much as we can, minimising the amount of waste being produced from the building.  This existing approach will underpin our approach to managing and operating the new building. 

Q.  What about the public artwork and Bell Tower on the Square?  

A.  The existing artwork (First Conundrum, Women and Child) and the Bell Tower will be carefully considered as part of the landscaping plan. If relocation within or outside of the site is required, this will be in full discussion with the City of Edinburgh Council. 

Q.  How much will it cost and where will the money come from? 

A.  The initial design, development and consultation stages have been funded by a cultural trust that wishes to remain anonymous. 

We will need financial support from a wide range of partners to make this project possible, including philanthropists, charitable grants and trusts, public bodies, businesses and public donations.  

Full costing of the project will take place later in 2020 to coincide with our formal Planning Application, but we estimate costs to be in the region of £50m. We are in conversation with funders, but the full fundraising campaign will not be launched until we secure planning permission.  

Q.  How can people find out more and submit feedback on the project

A.  Our Pre-Application Consultation runs 11 March – 12 July 2020. We want to ensure everyone who uses the Filmhouse, or has an interest in the city has an opportunity to find out about our plans, and to send us their comments.  

During this time, you can learn more:

  • Detailed information, including visualisations and designs can be viewed here.

  • Take part in one of our live online public Events on June 24th and 25th 2020. Click here to book a place - THESE ARE NOW COMPLETE

  • For latest Press Release on the project click here.

You can send us your feedback in the following ways: 

  • Online at survey link here 

Q.  How can I support the project? 

A.  Our public fundraising campaign will be launched once Planning Permission is secured and we will be asking for your support then through a special capital appeal. 

In the meantime, please consider supporting Filmhouse. Your donation will help secure Filmhouse's future and help us re-open when we can. You can support Filmhouse by making a donationbecoming a member, becoming a Friend of EIFF, or leaving a gift in your will.   


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